Leaving a ministry setting is often fraught with mixed emotions, varying opinions, and spiritual doubts.
Prayerfully consider the following ten issues when you think it may be time to go.
Even if things are growing and meaningful, pay attention when God pulls at you to leave. “Victory comes with many counselors,” (Prov. 24:6 HCSB) so seek counsel before deciding. When your family, friends, and colleagues confirm your sense of calling, it may be that God is leading you to a new place of service.
Family health problems, special educational needs for your children, financial necessities, persecution, and safety for your family may require that you make a move. However, be careful not to use circumstances as an excuse to do what you choose to do. If there are extenuating circumstances and it is God’s will that you stay, be confident that He will give you the strength and the guidance you need to deal with difficulties.
If your church has outgrown your ability to serve effectively and you are a hindrance to the future growth and ministry of the church, it may be time to step aside. On the other hand, you may have outgrown the church. If you stay put, you will stagnate. Leaving is not arrogance but good stewardship of competency skills and opportunities.
When your energy, focus, enthusiasm, and joy have waned, you need to address the situation. The solution may be a leave of absence for recovery and renewal.
When conflict over your ministry and leadership is dividing and damaging and it is destroying the fellowship and mission of the church, leaving is an option. Regardless of who is at fault, relational damage can make it hard to retrieve a positive ministry. Another consideration is that a pathologically dysfunctional church can damage you and your family.
When your unethical conduct such as lying, cheating, stealing, or sexual misconduct has destroyed the people’s trust and support, the wise decision is to leave. Both minister and church need time for recovery and healing.
Sometimes, the length of a minister’s stay can reach a point of diminishing returns. When you and the church lack vision and enthusiasm and zeal are waning, relocation may be the best thing for you and for the church. If your leadership is no longer being followed, the membership is eroding, and the redoubling of your efforts fails to produce anything positive, a fresh start somewhere else may give you renewed quality in your ministry and allow the church to move to another level.
If your theological and doctrinal beliefs are fundamentally counter to those of the church to the degree that it threatens the fellowship of the church, then integrity may call for you to leave.
The environmental context of the church may be destroying your family. Such an environment may be economical and social, cultural and racial, or geographic and climatic.
If the church cannot provide a livelihood, then you must either leave or enter bivocational ministry. Caring for your family is a high and biblical priority (see 1 Timothy 5:8).
No one of these factors, taken alone, should cause you to leave a place where God has called you to serve. The Holy Spirit of God may overrule every suggestion in this article and instruct you to stay just where you are. Do your best to determine prayerfully the will of God and follow His plan. These suggestions may help you determine what He wants you to do.